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Aquatilis” is a unique expedition to begin in the fall of 2015. Its main goal is the study of plankton, the most important element of the food chain and environmental well-being indicator of the planet.

aquatilisAquatilis organizer, Alexander Semenov, is a marine biologist, the head of the Moscow State University’s White Sea Biological Station diving services and a renowned underwater photographer.

Alexander Semenov is the author of the photos appearing in this post. Mr. Semenov’s  jellyfish, nudibranchs, comb jellies and other underwater creatures were published in Nature, Science, National Geographic, BBC Knowledge, BBC Focus, CNN, Daily Mail, The Telegraph.


The team Aquatilis is a team of  scientists, divers, photographers, cameramen and sailors. They are professionals — ambitious and terribly fond of his work. Having professional divers on the team means that they can explore planktonic organisms in their immediate environment. This is particularly important in the case of gelatinous plankton, some of its representatives so fragile that the first touch may be their last.

Hyperia Galba
Hyperia Galba. The quiet life of this White Sea jellyfish is greatly complicated by small crustaceans — parasites, settling in the body of jellyfish and devouring its soft tissue, tearing off pieces of jellyfish and, using their forelimbs, shoving the  food in their mouths.

The young scientists plan to share with the world photographs and videos much in the same fashion Jacques-Yves Cousteau did when he “uncovered” and “shared” the ocean with the world. Since Cousteau, nobody attempted expedition of comparable scale, using the latest equipment and the power of media platforms and social networks. Ocean still remains largely unexplored.

Serpula uschakovi
Serpula uschakovi is a polychaetes (worms) living in hard calcareous tubes that they themselves build. Outside the tube is only corolla of tentacles with which serpula breathes and eats. The basic diet consists of suspended in water and organic particles of small plankton. One of the tentacles of these worms is modified to make Operculum — a special lid that seals the tube in case of danger. Photographing them is extremely difficult process: they are afraid of any rustle and immediately hide in the tube.

“Also, we want to draw people’s attention to the problems of ocean pollution. We plan to visit the “garbage islands” of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. The size of these accumulations of floating debris and particulate plastics is huge, exceeding the area of some countries, such as Spain or Germany, for example. We want to show the extent of pollution and what happens to the animals in the sea of plastic…” (– A. Semenov)

turn the ocean into jelly. Aurelia - this is one of the most famous and the most common jellyfish in the oceans. Sometimes they form huge accumulations, turning the sea into a solid jelly. Aurelia feed on small zooplankton, adjusting it to his mouth smooth strokes of the dome on the edge of which there are hundreds of the finest tentacles - they paralyze or kill small crustaceans. With oral lobes jellyfish funneling them into his mouth.
Aurelia aurita, quite literally, turns the ocean into jelly. Aurelia is the most common jellyfish in the oceans. Sometimes they form huge gatherings, turning the sea into a solid jelly. Aurelia feeds on small plankton, guiding it to its mouth by gentle movements of its dome-head, on the edge of which sit hundreds of the finest tentacles. These tentacles paralyze or kill small crustaceans, funneling them into his mouth.

“People around the world need to understand the consequences of one bottle thrown into the sea. If at least a few thousand people will think  before throwing trash overboard or leaving it behind on the beach, it’ll be a small but significant step towards a clean ocean.” (– A. Semenov)

Lucernaria quadricornis
Lucernaria quadricornis: This jellyfish sits, kills and eats. Sessile jellyfish usually attaches itself to kelp or seaweed and waits sacrifice, its “hands” with bunches of sticky tentacles outstretched. Once some careless creature touches them, it shoots hundreds of stinging cells, and paralyzed or killed victim goes straight into its mouth. Afterwards, jellyfish is “closed” for lunch. Scary beast indeed, though very beautiful.

Aquatilis will use a system of ropes to dive at any point in the ocean or in the middle of the sea, where the depth of water beneath the submerged divers is hundreds, or even thousands of meters. It’s called Bluewater diving, the best and perhaps the only method of studying life full of gelatinous plankton organisms. Dodge sharks and you are in business.

Anemones Metridium farcimen from the Sea of Okhotsk.
Anemones Metridium farcimen from the Sea of Okhotsk.

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“I just madly in love with the whole underwater world. And I’m terribly curious to see the sea creatures. For me it’s like real cosmos — Star Trek, Starcraft and Babylon 5 rolled into one.”(– A. Semenov)


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